22. October 2020
How to maintain Business and Process Reliability with 24/7 Knowledge Management
An upset is a result of one or more process-related problems that disturb the intended functioning of a chemical operation. Process upsets are endemic to plant operations within the chemical industry, in spite of all the modern technologies meant to keep operations stable and boring. An upset can have several forms. One example is a minor, slow burn upset - such as an incremental temperature increase over time - which can lead to out-of-spec product. A major upset, such as an out of control reaction, can compromise the health and safety of the entire plant if not quickly and decisively addressed.
Upsets, whether major or minor, can consume the time of plant management and operations, and negatively affect production schedules. This is especially true for production teams that lack digital tools needed for information access, through sharing and knowledge capture. Time is wasted searching for information, communicating status, and monitoring follow-ups and investigations across multiple shifts.
Major plant upsets tend to follow Murphy’s Law –happening at the worst possible time, such as in the dead of night and on Sundays. The phenomenon is very similar to when young children get sick and need their pediatrician urgently – usually Sunday morning at 2:00 am. The difference is that young children are relatively sturdy and can usually hang on until 8:00 am when staff are available for a consultation.
Plant upsets, however, cannot wait – for every hour they are allowed to proceed uncorrected, they chew up profits and worse, creating potentially catastrophic safety hazards. Thus an operating unit’s response to an upset is a critical determinant to that unit’s overall success and process reliability. This success is represented by how well the organization responds to upsets and how well it manages the changes required to return to normal production.
In the following examples, we examine how digital technologies for Plant Process Management (PPM) help production teams address process upsets to make their operations more reliable and dependable. In fact, coping with upsets is one key factor in maintaining a high degree of Reliability – the ability to maintain stability in the face of constant process challenges. As a case study we present a practical scenario based on a processing plant using cumene/phenol technology, demonstrating how rapid resolution of a process upset can prevent a loss of $100+ K.
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